Norwegian’s New Airbus A321LR Fleet – What To Expect

Back in 2016, European budget airline Norwegian placed an order for 30 Airbus A321LRs. The move followed a commitment signed in June 2012 for 100 A320neo aircraft. The switch from 30 A320neo aircraft to 30 A321LRs was a move to grow and modernize the carrier, enabling it to operate long-range low-capacity services. Where is this order now? What can we expect from the carrier?

The A321LR is a longer-range version of the A321neo. Norwegian swapped some of its A320neo orders for this stretched, long-range jet. Photo: Airbus

“I am very excited about this new order of the Airbus A321LR…the newest narrow body long-haul aircraft on the market and with this order we will have a significant cost advantage and increased competitiveness, which means that we can offer our customers low prices on board brand new aircraft to a wide range of new destinations,ʺ -Bjorn Kjos, CEO, Norwegian (2016)

Transatlantic service

Transatlantic service has been a huge market for Norwegian. With the disappearance of WOW Air, Norwegian has a good chance to thrive as the only true low-cost transatlantic airline – once the market recovers, of course.

“The A321LR, the latest member of the market leading A320neo Family, will be able to fly longer routes of up to 4,000 nm. The A321LR will provide additional flexibility as it will have the longest range of any single aisle airliner, making it ideally suited to transatlantic routes and enable airlines to tap into new long haul markets which were not previously accessible with current single aisle aircraft.” -Airbus

Unfortunately, the airline has yet to disclose where it will specifically deploy its new long-range single-aisle jets. However, with Airbus’ 2016 press release titled “Norwegian selects 30 A321LR for first transatlantic routes,” we at least know which part of the world to find the A321LRs flying.

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Other parts of the world?

Meanwhile, Norwegian’s own press release in 2016 added the blurb: “The A321LR is suitable for many more routes, i.e. between the U.S. East Coast and Europe, between Scandinavia and parts of Asia, as well as South America and Europe.” Of course, Norwegian’s own statement makes things much more vague than the Airbus headline…

Crew beside A321LR which flew from Mahe to Toulouse
This A321LR is capable of flying up to 4,000 nautical miles, or 4,600 miles – or 7,400km. Photo: Airbus

We think Boston and Philadelphia might be good candidates for A321LR service from Europe – perhaps out of bases such as London Gatwick and Copenhagen.

Europe to South America might be too much of a stretch, as even London to Caracas (Venezuela) is just beyond the range of the jet. Scandinavia to East Asia also seems like wishful thinking as the distance is also beyond the A321LR’s range.

South Asia and the surrounding area is more likely for service from Scandinavia. Stockholm to Kathmandu could work, as could Copenhagen to Delhi.

A single class cabin layout

While the aircraft can fly longer routes, don’t expect too many frills associated with long-distance operations such as lie-flat seating in a business class.

According to the Airbus press release, the new aircraft will feature a single-class cabin layout, seating approximately 220 passengers. That mean’s we won’t even see a recliner-equipped premium cabin like the one installed on the carrier’s 787s.

ZIPAIR Highres business class
ZIPAIR just launched an innovative basic-business-class airfare stripped of inflight meals and extra baggage. Is this something Norwegian could (or should) consider for its long-haul services? Photo: ZIPAIR

While airlines like ZIPAIR will offer a budget lie-flat product, it doesn’t seem like an option for Norwegian. But perhaps it’s something the airline should consider, especially judging by the positive reaction many of our readers have had to the idea of a basic lie-flat product and airfare.

The order from Norwegian marked a significant departure from operating an all-Boeing fleet. The decision to diversify to Airbus was made long before the MAX crisis of 2019. Photo: Norwegian

Norwegian was to take delivery of the first of these jets in 2019. However, this was deferred, and the situation was made worse by current events.

A great resource to track Airbus aircraft production and deliveries, AIB Family Flights doesn’t even have Norwegian on record yet, meaning it could be quite a while longer before we see the aircraft join the fleet.

What would you like to see with Norwegian’s A321LR fleet? Let us know in the comments.